Virginia ratifies the ERA


On Jan. 15, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in a House vote of 58-40, and, in the Senate, by a vote of 27-12.

The Equal Rights Amendment states, “Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” according to the Congressional Research Services. If ratified, this would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against anyone based on their sex.

“That doesn’t mean it would magically end all sex-based discrimination,” said Kristin Olbertson, associate professor of history. “It would simply give those who want to challenge such practices (firing workers for being pregnant, for example) a vehicle with which to do so.”

There is no protection for women against discrimination on a national level at this time. A case could not be brought before the courts because of this.

“The amendment, if ratified, would mean a step toward breaking the divide between the sexes in the larger world today,” said Spencer Berry (’22).

Currently, it is not in violation of the national constitution to discriminate based on sex. However, 21 states have clauses that make it illegal to discriminate against gender identity or sexual orientation in public or private areas.

“I think that people believe that discrimination does not happen because a lot of rights are protected already,” said Grace Schmidt (’22). “It’s important for people to be aware.”

For an amendment to be ratified, it first must be proposed and approved by either two-thirds of both the Senate and House of Representatives or through a special convention proposed by two-thirds of the states. It then must be ratified by two-thirds of all state legislatures which would be 38 of the 50 states.

“The deadline was established on a bipartisan basis by supporters of the ERA as a way to keep the amendment from being indefinitely tabled,” said Olbertson. “It has already been extended once and there is no constitutional or legal reason why it could not be extended again.”

The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 and given a seven-year deadline to be ratified by the states. In the first five years, 35 states approved it and there was a two-year extension that led to the deadline being in 1982.

Since then, Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017 as well as Illinois in 2018. Then most recently, it was Virginia. All of these have occurred after the stated deadline.

“The deadline should be extended,” said Schmidt. “There should be a fair chance for it to be ratified.”

Berry agrees with this sentiment and believes that if a majority of people feel a certain way then the deadline should not matter.

While there is the chance that the deadline could be extended both the Trump administration and the Department of Justices office of legal counsel say that it could not and will not be ratified at this time. For there to be an extension, there would need to be bipartisan support.

In the past, there have been amendments that have been on the floor for years before being ratified. For example, the 27th amendment—dealing with Congress’s compensation. It was originally proposed in 1789; however, it was not ratified until 1992—over 200 years later.

The ERA was originally proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 following women gaining the right to vote. It was to guarantee that women would have the same rights as men.

“It’s important to know the history and the context to for this amendment,” said Schmidt. “You can’t understand it’s meaning without both.”

It is unclear whether the proposed amendment will be officially included at this time; however, it is a step in a direction for equality. This would provide a national protection that currently does not exist in the United States but does in other modernized countries.

“There’s never a bad time for equality,” said Olbertson. “Moreover, nations score higher on virtually every measure of well-being—family stability, childhood health, education, economic prosperity, strength of democracy, etc.—when there’s greater equality for women. Why wouldn’t we want that for our country?”

Tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran


The start of the new year was the start to growing escalations in the Middle East. On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani—an Iranian military general. This took place at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

A few days prior, on Dec. 31, 2019, there were protesters at the US Embassy located in Baghdad acting against the recent airstrikes that killed 25 members of the militia.

On Jan. 7, Iran launched 12 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq. One of the bases that housed American forces, was hit with six of the missiles.

Another important event that has occurred regards the issue of war powers resolution. The House of Representatives voted 224-194 to limit Trump’s power on Jan. 9. This now moves to the Senate for a vote.

These events quickly took over the news cycles and raised concerns among citizens at first. Michael Marshall, a visiting assistant professor of political science, said that these events, called militarized interstate disputes, happen frequently.

“There are dozens of militarized interstate disputes between the U.S. and Canada for instance,” said Marshall. “Canada tries to see how far into the Great Lakes it can go before it meets resistance, and we do the same thing when we send drones over Canada. I don’t think we’re very close to a war.”

In the Middle East, this is what is occurring with the United States challenging Iran’s sovereignty and Iran reciprocating the actions said Marshall. The news has sensationalized the events and not given experts the chance to explain what is happening and how frequently it occurs. A major difference that Marshall cited is that the United States attacked a government official in another country violating more than Iran’s sovereignty.

Samuel Nelson (’21) said students should watch out for the corporate media and the shift in tone when getting the information.

“Most people had no clue who Soleimani was before he was assassinated, but now we are being told that he was public enemy number one,” said Nelson.

Marshall suggests that students read their news rather than watch it because it all comes from the same source material but frequently the rhetoric changes to allow the stations bias and analysis to keep the news fresh and enjoyable for viewers.

With the news surrounding this situation evolving constantly, Nelson reads the news and updates about it daily. He gets his information from reputable journalists associated with The Washington Post and The New York Times. He also pays attention to “well sourced reactions to their reporting.”

The future of the conflict is uncertain. In recent days, there was been no further escalations of the situation. This differs from the initial reaction on mass media that worried about further war and conflict, and some people opposed it.

“It is heartening to see online interactions between Iranians and Americans that reject calls for war,” said Nelson.

“Any militarized dispute could become a war typically caused by both sides playing brinkmanship,” said Marshall. Brinkmanship is when both sides push each other to the point they step down. This could lead to an accidental war as it has in the past. However, at the moment, the countries are at a tense peace.

The consequences of the issue has lead to a rise in the pro-democracy movements in Iran and has polarized political parties within the United States more than they previously were.

“Try to read the news not only from United States’ perspective but also a worldly perspective and understand the biases,” said Marshall. People should understand the historical, cultural and political background to the situation when examining the events from an outside perspective. They may also try to look at it from the other leader’s point-of-view.

“Understanding how and why is a better way to look at it than just saying they are crazy,” said Marshall. “No, they are rational actors attempting to survive and accumulate wealth and power just as we are as well as preserve our sovereignty.”

Tips to surviving hell week and exams



Final exams are fast approaching—only 14 days until they begin. This means there is only one week until what students commonly refer to as “hell week”—a stressful time used by many to prepare for their upcoming tests, practice their presentations and write their last-minute papers.

Stress is not just restricted to this time, but it typically gets worse for students as there are final assignments and last chances to improve grades.

“In regards to finals, I find my most stress the weekend before—knowing I have multiple huge exams that will majorly affect my final grade in multiple classes all within a few days is stressful,” said Bailey Frank (’21).

There are many resources on campus available to all students to aid in their classes. The Center of Student Opportunity is a place to go to find a tutor for support in addition to speaking with professors during their office hours.

The Counseling and Wellness Center is also a great place for students go when they are feeling overwhelmed. They are able to provide extra support through developing strategies at an appointment according to David Wier, a counselor at the Health and Wellness Center.

During this time of year, it is also important to get enough Vitamin D which is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” In the winter, there is less sunlight which leads to a decreased amount on exposure and lowered energy and depressed moods, according to Wier. Vitamin D lamps are a way to combat this which can be bought online or tried in the counseling center.

Having a plan on how to go into finals makes it easier to prioritize and focus on what is coming up.

“I prioritize my classes based upon their difficulty and when the final exam is in the week. I normally map this out the week before finals, so I know what I need to get done. I also make sure I’m taking care of my mental and physical health,” said Holly Fries (’20).

There are other ways to lower stress such as what comes through physical exercise. There are also events coming up including Kitty Fun Night in the Rec Center and therapy dogs in the library. 

Staying in contact with friends and family is important to continue especially if it is a part of a student’s daily routine. It can provide not only a break from studying, but it can be used a as a form of stress relief.

“Ask yourself if you’re making time for your chosen stress relief activities. Life is about balance. You are more than just a student,” said Weir.

Additionally, when students start to focus solely on school the care for themselves start to slip such as by less sleep and skipping meals. This can have a poor effect on the students’ metal health as well.

“As you get closer to exams and “crunch time,” remember that some self-care is better than no self-care,” said Wier.

Wier advises to make time for sleep, hobbies and seeing friends—even for a short period of time. It is important to have breaks as well as a schedule that can be flexible with the changes within the day.

“I manage my stress by taking study breaks every couple of hours, hanging out with friends  — even if it’s only for a few minutes — and simply giving myself a small time to look at my phone in order to let my brain relax,” said Frank.

Frank also places a bigger emphasis on time management to get through the stress of finals in addition to caffeine. Scheduling her day in her planner and putting up reminders and inspirational quotes to help her get through the time.

It is also important to start planning as soon as possible. This way there is time and nothing that comes out of nowhere.

“My biggest tip is to start getting ready for finals now. Figure out when all of your exams are and put it on your calendar. Make sure that you are planning an adequate amount of time to study and take care of yourself,” said Fries.

“Just remember that after it’s all done and over, your brain will get a nice break for a few weeks!” said Frank.

iGem wins silver medal in annual competition


From Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, a group of Alma college students attend the iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts. Here they compete against teams from across the world in a synthetic biology competition. Students in high school, undergraduate and graduate studies are asked to look at their local communities for an issue to try and solve through engineering.

iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine which is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the education and advancement of synthetic biology through collaboration in an open community. They hold an annual competition where teams show the project they worked on the past year.

“iGEM is a way for students and society to become more aware of synthetic biology and help realize the potential of this field to create innovative technologies that solve real world problems,” said Devin Camenares, professor of biochemistry and iGEM coordinator. “This is a way for students to work on a team towards a common goal – to see ways in which they can apply their education across different disciplines.”

iGEM started in 2003 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their students. The following year it was a summer competition and since then it has grown to have over 6,000 participants.

David Viguilla (’20) got involved with the team for many reasons. He was drawn to the student led aspect which allowed them to choose what they worked on—rather than being given an assignment—as well as the other learning aspects where he can put what he has learned into practice. There was also the interdisciplinary work the team had to partake in that he enjoyed.

“This gives opportunity for all majors to get involved in iGEM and in fact, makes it a necessity for the team to be made up of a diverse range of students,” said Viguilla.

Madison Hibbs (’22) said that they choose their project through looking at local problems. The team engaged with the community to come up with ideas to solve issues that are in the community. She also has a love for fixing problems with science.

“The fact that it is a competition that helps people really drew me in,” said Hibbs.

Alma’s project was titled “Plaque Attack.” The group’s goal was to engineer a microbe that could break down trimethylamine, also known as TMA, before it could have any harmful effects. The ultimate goal is to create a probiotic to prevent future plaque buildup and improve heart health.

“The program brings a new avenue for experiential learning, one that is interdisciplinary and team-based,” said Camenares. “It gives students a chance to emerge from Alma as leaders in the new field of synthetic biology.”

This was the team’s first year competing and received a silver medal. Other teams from Michigan included Michigan and Michigan State, both of who got bronze medals. Other countries that were represented at the competition included, China, Scotland, Australia and many others.

The competition provided an encouraging environment for synthetic biology engineering to thrive. While there, students were able to see ideas that other teams got to present as well.

“I loved being able to hear other people’s ideas and seeing what they brought to the table,” said Hibbs.

“Some successful teams even form start-up companies and receive grants from pre-existing companies to continue their research,” said Viguilla.

Following the competition, their work does not stop. Hibbs said that they will continue to look for ways their pathway to work. They will also begin looking at new projects to pursue for the upcoming year.

Controversial costumes spark debate during celebrations


Halloween is a time for children to dress up, trick-or-treat and have a fun and safe night. It is a way for them to express themselves in a different way by impersonating something, or someone else.

On Oct. 31, in Jamestown, Tennessee, seven teenagers dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan in the group’s white robes and hoods. There was a video fourteen second video posted to Youtube titled, “2019 Halloween in Jamestown Tennessee,” showing the high schoolers walking around a drive-in.

There has been an outcry against allowing these costumes in the local community. While there were no actual crimes committed, people have thought it was inappropriate to dress in that manner.

While Kasey Jones (’22) had not heard about the incident she said she was not surprised.

“As an education student, it worries me that students want to dress like that,” said Jones. “It makes me wonder what their home life is like and what influences they have.”

This is not the first time that Halloween costumes have become controversial. In past years, there have been issues from people dressing as members of the Ku Klux Klan. In 2013, a mother in Virginia allowed her seven-year-old son dress in the outfit claiming it was “family tradition.”

Halloween costumes have been under closer watch in recent years as people are becoming more sensitive to cultural appropriation. There have been questions about whether it is okay to dress as characters such as Moana, Pocahontas, Aladdin and many others.

“I think that people shouldn’t be dressing as geisha or indigenous women for Halloween and see why people are upset,” said Stephanie Eckstorm (’22). “It’s another level to be a Klan member because they were a hate group.”

This issue has led to the question regarding when freedom of expression is protected and when is it not. It also requires people to look for a line to be drawn about what is okay and what is not in regards to actions.

Freedom of expression is an unenumerated right. This means that it is not directly spelled out within the constitution, but it is implied. There are direct protections of freedom of speech and press which many interpret to protect other ways of self-expression that go beyond just words.

Dr. Nicholas Dixon, professor of philosophy, believes that costumes are protected under the First Amendment and points out the Supreme Court case, National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie (1977). In this ruling, they said it was legal for Nazis to march in full regalia.

“In general, I think that costumes that demean or degrade a group of people, like ones involving blackface, are morally problematic,” said Dixon. “I would also criticize costumes designed to make fun of people who have experienced tragedies like mass shootings.  To mock people who are already vulnerable seems cruel and callous.”

This is an issue that should be addressed in regards of when it is okay to express themselves and when it crosses a moral line.

“Expressions should be cut off when people are or were harmed by what you are doing,” said Eckstorm. “You have to think about the historical context and what they did and how it affected people.”

The situation is complicated when looking at how people understand certain topics and how they are addressed in society. There is a balance between the laws and morality that needs to be considered.

“There is a fine line sometimes on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” said Jones. “I definitely think that there needs to be some more awareness on this topic.”

Students take on responsibility of daily news



On Oct. 19, The New York Times reported on the University of Michigan’s college newspaper that is the only daily paper left in the city of Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Daily become the only daily printed paper in Ann Arbor following the closing of The Ann Arbor News in 2009. They eventually closed their website. The Ann Arbor Chronicles, an online paper, closed as well in 2014 after only being in operation for six years.

The college’s paper is staffed by nearly 300 student journalists who cover local area news ranging from local government meetings to sports event. However, in other areas of the country, such as Arizona, student papers are responsible for covering large, national events.

The college’s paper reports on issues the have effects on students such as sexual misconduct and the way the university is handling matters. They also cover the information pertaining to the city as a whole including budget cuts in the county and the responses to local violence. While it may not be daily, there are some places that report on what is happening in Ann Arbor. publishes a piece called “Ann Arbor News” twice a week; however, this is unable to keep up with what is happening in the city.

Since it is not a company that publishes with experienced reporters, there comes some issues. The University of Michigan does not currently have a program dedicated to journalism which has left the students with little training. There is also the issue that the students only hold temporary positions, so some do not take them as seriously. For some papers, the budget can be an issue as they print in large volumes.

Ann Arbor is not the only place this is happening in the United States. As more newspapers are shut down, there is more pressure placed on the student organizations to provide important information.

There is a shift to reading the paper online and The Michigan Daily recognizes that in their production of podcasts as well as blogs to keep citizens informed through social media. The University of Maryland at College Park’s newspaper is switching to only online in the upcoming months.

In Alma, Morning Sun is a local daily paper in addition to the college’s paper, The Almanian. These provide information to those that are on campus and can be found in various locations.

In the changing times, more people are starting to get their information from online, such as Cassie Freeman (’20).

“Since our way of life is changing from paper to internet, it is probably easier if the news was online, and it is also more environmentally friendly,” says Freeman.

Whether or not students should be responsible for informing communities is up for debate. Since they do not have the experience other reporters do and they are full time students, it limits what they can do.

“A newspaper serves two services. You have reporters who are going out and covering stories, but that to me, seems like you need specialized training for that, but that would only be a certain type of student to go out and do that,” said Dr. Dana Aspinall, professor of English. “Then you have the OP-ED page where students write in how they feel about whatever has happen or what their opinion is on a certain politician or decision.”

Aspinall emphasized that it is everyone’s responsibility to participate in some way. Some believe that it is the students’ responsibility to report on campus.

“I don’t know how students would do with world news because many of us don’t have the time to go out, research and see what is going on in the word, but if it was more like campus events, I feel they are spot on,” said Aspinall.

No matter the way it happens—whether it be electronic or in paper—there is a place for the news in our society.

“It’s important for people to stay up on the news especially with politics in general,” said Monika Tomica (’20). “I feel it’s a good way to get people educated on the topic specifically with the presidential campaigns right now.”

Purple ties bring awareness


Every Friday throughout October, students and staff come together to wear purple ties, bringing awareness to Domestic Violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another” according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

As part of bringing awareness to this issue this month, the Counseling and Wellness Center also participated in the Clothesline Project on Oct. 4. This project was started in Massachusetts in 1990 and has been a part of Alma’s campus since 1995.

“[It] was a non-government movement created to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women men and children,” says Linda Faust, a counselor at the Counseling and Wellness Center.

The shirts are a way for survivors and others to establish their stance against the violence and are displayed publicly. The shirts are decorated, and each color represents a different form a violence.  Examples include white for women who died from violence, yellow and beige for those who have been battered or assault, and red, pink and orange for those who survived rape and sexual assault.

The reasons for the annual Purple Tie Campaign is to bring awareness to Domestic Violence which is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States according to Faust.

While when it first began is unknown, the Purple Tie was started using a purple ribbon to symbolize courage, survival and dedication to ending domestic violence.

“It also serves as a way to remember those who have lost their lives at the hands of a person they once loved and trusted,” says Faust.  

People participate for different reasons, for example Faust participates to increase awareness of domestic violence as well as general violence toward others. Students participate for their own reasons.

“I feel that it’s a topic that is often swept under the rug and a lot of people don’t pay attention to it because of this fact. It is often stigmatized as well and a lot of victims are afraid to speak up,” says Emma Bolam (’22) in regards to why it is important on campus.

Laney Alvarado (’20), a volunteer at RISE advocacy, believes it is important to bring awareness to those on campus, so they know the signs are able to protect themselves as well as those they care about.

Alvarado and Bolam both acknowledge that there are misconceptions surrounding the topic on campus, so it is important to bring it up so survivors feel more comfortable speaking about it. It also allows other to learn about the topic to know the signs

“People have this idea in their minds that ‘this is what it is’ when in reality it is such a broader spectrum,” says Alvarado. “If you don’t know the signs it is very easy to fall into it without knowing.”

“It is important for the students to recognize and speak out against violence and to demonstrate that violence will not be tolerated on this campus,” says Faust.

Impeachment inquiry: what to know


Graphic by MEREK ALAM

On Sept. 24, 2019, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced the start to the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

This comes in response to a whistleblower account of a phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, Vlodymyr Zelensky, back in July. In this conversation, there was a discussion about a deal in which the United States would receive information in exchange for aid. There was no direct transcript, only a memorandum that summarized the conversation.

There have only been three previous impeachment inquires in the history of the United States. The first being Andrew Johnson in 1868, then again in 1974 with Richard Nixon and most recently Bill Clinton in 1998.

“It’s very historic,” said Kristin Olbertson, a professor of history. “This is just not something the nation undergoes on any kind of regular basis.” There have been numerous calls for impeachment since the beginning of the presidency; however, none were ever acted upon and called before the house.

“I just think the whole thing is overhyped. They’ve been trying to push impeachment proceedings for months now with little to no success. It’s become the boy who cried wolf,” said Emily Thomas (’22).

Recently, there has been a second whistleblower to come forward and collaborate about the phone call. These people will retain certain rights for coming forward to discuss what they know.

“Federal whistleblower protections are there to protect individuals who have knowledge of law breaking or abusive behavior and wish to make that behavior known but are concerned about retaliation they might experience,” said Olbertson.

Additionally, there have been more complications in the process. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not provide subpoenaed paperwork by the house committee. In doing so, the process is being delayed.

This impeachment is coming near the end of Trump’s term and the start of the next election cycle which holds the potential to be affected.

“I think [the impeachment inquiry] does prompt questions into what comes next, and who really cares,” said Sam Nelson (‘21).

There are two possible outcomes to this process. If Trump is to be impeached and then removed by the Senate, he will not be eligible to run for re-election. If he is not impeached or not removed, he will still be able to run for presidency again.

The outcome is uncertain, and students have differing opinions. “If anything, it will strengthen GOP support of Trump and (assuming the impeachment fails like it has in the past) will only weaken the Dem’s connection with their moderates,” said Thomas.

“The short-term affect seems to be positive for the Democrats as a whole, but as we learned in 2016, we can’t be optimistic and ignore the electoral college,” said Nelson.

Both Nelson and Thomas said that it is important for students to follow the news regarding this and to stay informed. “Following what the president does and how their representatives react is critical as a citizen right now,” says Nelson.

“It’s highly important, and I do encourage everybody to pay attention to the process,” said Olbertson. “I do encourage people not to consume cable news and to go to the original sources for their information whenever they can.”

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